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Better Performance Reviews, Great Results

Rather than conducting annual performance marathons, Bristol-Myers' new program concentrates on ongoing appraisals.

November 2, 2001
Related Topics: Performance Appraisals
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Ben Dowell reflects on the hassles of administering traditional performance appraisals.They took 13 days to complete. They weren't forward-looking. Nobody liked them."We had a 360 (degree) paper-and-pencil nightmarish system," he says.

As vice president of leadership development at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Dowellis in charge of all the pharmaceutical giant's performance systems. With 44,000employees located throughout the world, it is no simple task.

Until 1995, when the corporation hired Applied Psychological Techniques, Inc.,an HR consulting firm headquartered in Darien, Connecticut, to help them developa sophisticated approach to performance appraisals, Bristol-Myers wasn't givingits employees the kind of feedback they needed, Dowell says. The focus was onwhat an employee had already done, rather than on future expectations, goals,and growth.

"APT helped us create a major culture change," he says. "Thesystem is very efficient, and it was designed to give every employee very specificfeedback."

Dowell credits the system with helping the corporation make significant improvements.Rather than conducting annual performance marathons, Bristol-Myers' new programconcentrates on ongoing appraisals. "We'd rather give immediate feedbackand spend time coaching our employees," he says. "The new system hasclarified our standards, and raised standards."

With the new APT system, involuntary terminations have gone up dramatically-- about 25 percent in the past five years, he says -- largely because standardsare higher. "Instead of passively getting feedback, employees are accountableto ask for it, and to get it." And they are given the kind of ongoing supportthey need to achieve their maximum potential, he says. The new system is directlyrelated to the company's business successes, he adds. "We're doing wellin a tough environment. Our standards are high, and they are forward-looking."

Workforce, November 2001, p. 16 -- Subscribe Now!

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